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Olena | by Mean and Pinchy
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The title isn't a typo; this female Chinese mantis is in my house, and is not Valerie. You know there's a story. Bear with's kinda long. :)


This past summer had been a very good one for mantises in general, and Chinese in particular. I saw so many of them that I even stopped photographing most of them because there were just so many. A couple of weeks ago, though, I wanted to find a mantis for a Flickr friend who likes them, but has yet to find any where she lives. I thought that if I shot a video clip, she'd better see how to look for these creatures that are absolutely remarkable at camouflaging themselves in foliage. That weekend, though, there were no mantises at all; so late in the season, there weren't many left.


Last weekend, I went out looking again for a mantis, and this time, I found one. A big, beautiful female, so well-hidden in some yucca at a park that I wouldn't have seen her had I not been shooting yucca bugs only inches away from her. I took a video clip, zooming out to show how she sort of "disappeared" in the foliage. She looked hungry (Chinese mantises have rather "robust" appetites...heh), so I caught a meadow katydid for her, and although wary at first, she took it. Though she wasn't a pet, I named her in honour of Olena, for whom I'd sought her. I left her eating the katydid, wished her well and thanked her for her co-operation.


On Sunday, I was at the same park, and decided to check up on the yucca bugs again. Lo and behold, guess who I find in the very same place I found her before? Good guess--Olena. I recognised her because she has a damaged wing, and a tiny bit of her exoskeleton on her face is lifted (almost looks like a fish scale). I caught another katydid for her, and this time, she didn't hesitate for even a second; she ignored my hand, grabbed the katydid, got away.


I usually don't interfere with the lives of my little multi-legged friends. I will move an insect to better light to take a photo, but when I'm done, back it goes where I found it. I won't take even a pretty insect out of a spider's web; the spider may not be pretty, but it has to eat. This time, though, I interfered. Nights are cold now, and tonight will drop below freezing. Chinese mantises breed in the late summer/early fall, females deposit oothecae, and then the adults die when cold weather comes. Any mating Olena would have done is over, and food is getting scarce, so I'm interfering only in her own, individual life. I don't know how long she will live because she's already got the "season's over" signal from the temperature drop, but when she does die, she won't die hungry, and she won't freeze. She was Last Mantis Standing--I've seen no others--and she's welcome here as long as she wants to stay.


Sorry for the bad photo--she's still in a holding container because her home isn't ready yet--and for the long story, but I guess I'm sort of famous for my long stories. Anyway, here is Olena, the newest addition to my menagerie. :)

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Taken on October 27, 2008